July 25, 2017

Republicans are racing down a partisan dead end. Will they turn around?

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich. Official photo.

For over seven years straight, Republicans in Washington have cheered shortcomings in our health care system and blamed the Affordable Care Act for every problem under the premise that they would do better if put in charge. It made for great bumper stickers and campaign promises to repeal the law, but the trouble is that their opposition to the ACA has been more about politics than it was about actual policy or plans to do better. Just because it made for a good applause line, doesn’t mean that it’s an actual solution. In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has told us that repealing the ACA doesn’t solve a thing and actually kicks 32 million people off their health care plan. Nobody should support that.

The truth is that Americans don’t want insurance companies to discriminate against them based on a pre-existing condition, they want middle class tax credits to help them afford their insurance premiums, and they want there to be more competition in the marketplace to help drive down costs — which are the key pieces of what the health care law sought to do.

Martin Heinrich is a Democrat who represents New Mexico in the U.S. Senate.

That is not to say we can’t do more to put in place fixes to the law and keep costs low. In fact, there are bipartisan ideas that actually provide solutions to real problems, like providing reinsurance and cost sharing reductions to even out the marketplaces and doing more to encourage enrollment to spread risk. Those are not partisan ideas…they are actuarial (meaning data-based insurance repairs that drive down costs).

But instead of looking to solve real problems, Republicans have raced down a partisan dead end and today are left with the choice of whether or not to turn around. They still don’t know exactly what bill they are going to vote on in a few hours, they have never once held a hearing on it, and it would be impossible for Senators to have read it. What we do know is that it is not a true attempt to fix our health care system. It turns out that when they said repeal and replace Obamacare, what they really meant was that they wanted massive tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy, and to pay for them with $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid — which increasingly provides health care for the middle class. That is at the heart of what they are trying to do, and every possible analysis that has been done shows that tens of millions of people will lose their health care coverage because of it. That isn’t improving anything and represents millions of steps backwards for real people.

I have worked across the aisle on fixing the ACA, whether it be repealing the tax on health benefits, fixing onerous small business reporting requirements or looking for tangible fixes that help improve insurance coverage. This is too important and we need to get it right. I urge my Republican colleagues to look over their shoulder, turn around and see that they do not need to take health care away from millions of Americans because real bipartisan solutions are within reach.